Guilds of Ravnica – Playing To Your Weaknesses: Red
NOTE: “Playing to your Weaknesses” is a series of articles I have been doing on my own blog since Avacyn Restored that cover all of the uncommons and commons in a new expansion and which ones I would choose to use as one of the 23 cards in a 40 card limited deck. For those of you uninitiated to limited, it simply means sealed and booster draft, where you open packs and then proceed to make a deck out of them. I’ve purposely left out the rare cards because it is much more likely that you’ll see multiples of uncommon and commons in your packs/pools.)
As for my rating system, after a lot of feedback I’ve decided to abandon my 3 tier scoring system of Low-Medium-High and I will instead be moving onto a 5 star ranking system. For the most part, I will focus mainly on cards from 2.5 to 5 stars in my article. The system is as follows:
- 1 star = a card that is barely playable, even as filler for your deck
- 2 stars = this card could be a strong sideboard card, but is highly conditional and not always effective. Example: A creature that fills the curve, a spell that destroys an artifact. Probably filler to finish up your limited deck or needs synergy to be playable.
- 3 stars = a 3 star card is a solid role-player. These cards could be less than amazing removal effects, or a creature that is a glass cannon (high power, low defense). They could be good except for a few flaws. Example: A creature with a good ETB effect or decent activated ability. A spell that has a great effect but costs too much or has a big drawback. A good 2nd to 5th pick in draft.
- 4 stars = Here’s where we get into the powerhouses. 4 Stars could be good finishers, or cards that can end a game if left unchecked. They also have multiple effects, and are all around good value for you. The only thing holding them back is restrictive costs or some small drawback. Example: A creature that will win the game on its own if left unchecked and wins head to head battles often. A spell that has multiple effects or creates a huge swing in tempo. Usually a first pick in draft.
- 5 stars = you won’t see a lot of these at common and uncommon. These will usually be your rares and mythics because they are incredibly bonkers. Planeswalkers, massive creatures, etc., these are the cards you could build a deck around. Example: A creature that is almost impossible to due to special abilities or recursion. A spell that wipes the board or gives you massive card advantage. “Windmill slam” first pick in limited.
Welcome to the red article for Guilds of Ravnica! I’ll be continuing my series on what I think the limited format will be in GRN by going more into depth about the Jump-Start mechanic in Izzet (UR) decks, as well as coming to a conclusion about Boros and if it’s possible to run a combat trick heavy deck to take advantage of the Mentor ability. Of course we still have to work our way through the multicolor cards which COULD possibly super charge some of these archetypes, but after today we should have a good understanding of WR, UR, and UB strategies.
I’ve been talking up Mentor a lot recently and I’d like to start with this strategy today. Barging Sergeant, or as I like to call him ‘Sarging Bargeant’, is your typical glass cannon red creature. It has low toughness and high power. This makes him the perfect candidate for Mentor abilities. Whereas previous glass cannon cards ended up underperforming, I think this Minotaur Soldier will do some work. Think of him as a 4/2 hasty creature that will pump up one of your other creatures 80% of the time. A lot of the other mentor cards are fast but lacking in power, and ‘Sarging Bargeant’ will be able to pump them up no problem. This in turn makes your other mentor cards better the following turn. I imagine it as sort of a chain reaction of sorts. If you build your Mentor decks well you can tick up all of your creatures consistently and overwhelm your opponents.
Goblin Banneret is a new take on an old type of card. Fire breathing has been on 1 and 2 drop creatures for a while, and they’ve always been semi-playable. Adding Mentor to the mix makes being aggressive much more beneficial. Even late game I could see him being quite useful. If you add in combat tricks to the mix, both the Sergeant and Banneret become very versatile attackers.
As for Rubblebelt Boar, it’s not a Mentor card per se, but it’s a great support card for RW strategies. It pumps up your Mentor card when it comes into play which lets the ability trigger once more on attacking. Sure it reverts into an extremely vanilla 3/3 creature for 4 mana the next turn, but I think most Mentor based decks will want to play it in their 23 cards.
Barging Sergeant – RATING: 3 Stars
Goblin Banneret – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Rubblebelt Boar – RATING: 2.5 Stars
I’m not too impressed with red’s removal spells in Guilds of Ravnica. Oh they’ll kill creatures well, but they are lacking the versatility of being able to hit your opponent as well. I guess killing creatures it what is most important in limited, but I’ve been spoiled by cards like Lighting Strike, Fiery Temper, and Lightning Bolt in the future. Why can’t we have both?
Lava Coil does a great job of stoping those pesky black creatures from returning from the dead, and Command the Storm should have no problem dropping even the beefiest of creatures at instant speed. It’s a little overcosted I think, especially after we had cards like Roast and Thunderbolt at 2 mana, but you’ll end up playing it regardless.
Lava Coil – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Command the Storm – RATING: 3 Stars
Now you want to do damage to both players AND creatures? Well, choose one and you’ll have to pay 6 mana to do it. I mean in the past we had Inferno at instant speed for 7 mana that dealt 6 damage to both creatures AND players, yet we have to pay 6 to just choose one target? It’s sad to see how far red has fallen. Inescapable Blaze is alright for decks that need a way to kill big bombs like the 6/6 demon, but it’s not what you want to be drawing against faster decks like Boros. Not going to be high in draft, but if you’re in red you should pick it up if there’s nothing else. Personally I’d go for the easier to cast removal.
RATING: 2.5 Stars
Cosmotronic Wave isn’t removal so much as it’s an ‘accidental’ board wipe. It’s great at getting rid of tokens and 1 toughness creatures, but he main reason you’ll be playing this is if you’re trying to be aggressive. It’s definitely playable in a RW/Boros deck, but I could see it seeing play in UR/Izzet as well since it fills up your graveyard with a spell and also lets your flyers punch through some damage.
RATING: 2.5 Stars
Smelt-Ward Minotaur is slightly better than Wave if you’re playing an Izzet deck with a good number of spells. Playing this on curve then using combat tricks, tempo, or burn cards will give your opponent a headache as they try to block favorably. I could see it being good in Boros as well if you have lots of instant speed pump effects.
RATING: 2.5 Stars
I really hope this means we’re getting a Thundermaw Hellkite reprint or something like it soon. I mean Hellkite Whelp is cute and all, and it has a good body and ability for 5 mana, but I’d rather pay 5 to get a bigger body that helps swing the tempo into your favor.
RATING: 3 Stars
Book Devourer is an interesting card. Never mind the A+ flavor, but having the rummage ability built into a creature with trample seems really good. It will be hard to block favorably, meaning you’ll be able to activate this ability when it attacks most of the time. Discarding could help if you’re playing RB with Undergrowth cards, or if you have lots of Jump Start cards in UR that you don’t have to worry about keeping in your hand. It’s both a decent beater and a great set up card. I’m looking forward to experimenting with it.
RATING: 3 Stars
I think most people are realizing this was designed to be a big F* YOU to Tron decks in modern and ways to easily kill Emrakul, but “Explodey Boy” should be decent in limited as well. It checks off all of the boxes you want in a utility creature: easy to cast, multiple abilities, and can use abilities right away. There aren’t too many colorless/artifacts you’ll want to destroy with him, but being able to block then deal 2 damage to another creature to kill it is quite useful. I wouldn’t mind having 1-2 in my red deck.
RATING: 3 Stars
Other Cards That Will See Play
- Direct Current (2.5) – Seems overcosted to me, even if you can deal 2 damage twice to any target. 6 mana + 1 card to deal 4 damage is very inefficient.
- Fearless Halberdier (2) – Vanilla filler.
- Fire Urchin (2) – Maybe good in a spell heavy deck or one with lots of combat tricks. Good target for Mentor triggers though.
- Street Riot (2) – Good anthem in aggressive decks, especially if they’re lacking in power but can go wide.
- Sure Strike (2.5) – I like it as a combat trick as well as a way to activate Mentor.
- Wojek Bodyguard (2) – Good body but can’t block or attack alone. Good for Mentor decks but a liability in others.
Coming Up Next
Phew. Well I didn’t think that I’d get through red so quickly but there wasn’t as much substance there as I thought there would be. Jump-Start seems to have fizzled out for Izzet decks, but Mentor seems like it can still be viable. I’m sure the Multicolor Izzet cards will do a lot to shore up red’s shortcomings, but even without multicolor cards I can see RW Mentor being a viable archetype.
I’ll be working on green for Friday, and I think there is a good chance that I’ll have the main colors ready before the pre-release. The Multicolor article is going to be a beast though and most likely it won’t be out until after the pre-releases. I hope you’ve gotten some good insight from this article, but if there’s something I missed or evaluated wrong, don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments.